Author Archive

There is Magic in the Air…and it’s called Bluetooth



With the world spiraling out of control in the past year or so, we felt so out of control with our lives. We didn’t have a say with staying employed, with whether that vacation can actually happen before another lockdown. We felt so small compared to the world. That’s why our group wanted to explore the notion of “man controlling nature.” We wanted to use arduinos to give users the opportunity to change the weather and feel like they are in control of their lives and even the sky. Our goal was to explore the proximities between people and their environment, and how this can impact the way we view the world and share connections. This was the interaction that held the most meaning for us.

The installation we created is made up of two parts: the cloud and the wand. We designed and built everything from scratch using a variety of materials. The cloud comprises of a wooden structure made of bamboo sticks covered in a LED strip and cotton. The cloud was hung on the ceiling using wire; inside the wooden structure we placed an arduino and circuit which could send instructions to the LED strip. The wand was made using a stick and plastic bottle and covered with hot glue and acrylic paint. Inside the wand we placed another arduino and batteries which would collect and send information to the arduino in the cloud when in proximity to it. For this project we started out with two command gestures: point down, and twirl which would send different signals to the cloud. The first gesture will cause the cloud to have a thunderstorm-like effect with flashing blue and purple lights and a thunder sound, while the second signal will cause the cloud to display a rainbow of changing colours.

For this assignment, we used two Arduino BLE devices with the one in the cloud being the central that reads the data and generates an output, and the one in the wand is the peripheral which collects the data and sends it along. Because the cloud is fixed in location, the user can make their way around the cloud and cast spells from any angle given they are in proximity to the cloud. The cloud acts as both the technical beacon and the beacon for the magic to happen. Like J.K Rowling once said: “it is important to remember that we all have magic inside us.”

Experience Video:

How it Works Video:

Final Project Images: 






Development Images:

img_20211206_201331 img_20211208_173101 img_20211208_180703


The Code:

The Network Diagram: 





Group members: Kelly Xu, Zhino Yousefi, & Prayag Ichangimath

“Zenscape” an Immersive Garden Experience

Project Title: “Zenscape” (Zen Garden + Escape from Stress)

Names of group members: Kelly Xu, Zhino Yousefi, and Siyu Sun


Project Description:

As the world moves faster around us, and our lives are forced to become fast-paced to keep up. Our group wanted to remind everyone to slow down and spend some time with themselves. We wanted to create a calming immersive project that users can experience and adapt as part of their self-care ritual in their own homes.

Zen gardens are a way of life that is associated with stress reduction. It’s meant to evoke feelings of tranquility, calmness, and peace. It has also been scientifically proven to have psychological health benefits. With stress-reducing in mind, our group wanted to make a Zen Garden our intangible surface. Zen gardens use rocks, gravel, or sand to recreate the essence of nature, and help people become more in tune with themselves. However, not everyone knows how to reflect methodically, so we will introduce videos as an immersive way to show how quietly arranging the rocks, sand, and shrubbery can help us become one with nature.


For our project, we recreated a physical Zen Garden that can be displayed on a tabletop. We added different sensors to various parts of the Garden that users can interact with, which picks up user interaction and displays nature videos, images, and music correspondingly. The nature media are specifically chosen to enlighten and bring meaning to the action that the user executes.

The Final Experience: 



rock_pressure shrubbery_joystick


Experience video:

(Please watch with the sound on for the latter half of the video!)

How it works video:

The Development Process:






Link to the Arduino and Processing code hosted on GitHub:

Circuit diagram:


The Media We Used: 

Music (for when user is interacting with the sand): “Dream a Dream” by Sayuri Hayashi Egnell

Default Video (for when the user is not interacting):

Panoramic Image (for when the user is interacting with the joystick):

Beach Video (for when the user is interacting with the stone):

River Video (for when the user is interacting with the bridge’s gate):



“News: US News, Top News in India, US Election News, Business News, Sports & International News: Times of India.” Why Do You Need a Zen Garden?, Gunjan Verma, 24 Aug. 2016, 16:23 IST,

“Free Stock Videos · Pexels Videos.” A Person Standing In The Beach Shore, Christopher Schultz, 19 Nov. 2020,

“Epidemic Sound.” Dream a Dream, Sayuri Hayashi Egnell, 5 Nov. 2021,

“Free Stock Videos · Pexels Videos.” Water Surface, Joe Lattanzio, 28 Aug. 2020,

“Pexels – Free Stock Photos.” Person Showing Gray Stone Mountain, Mali Maeder, 12 Apr. 2015,


The Changing Seasons Serenity Night Light

Project title: Changing Seasons Serenity Night Light

Created by: Kelly Xu


Project description:

The Changing Seasons Serenity Night Light is inspired by the city lights turning on one by one at night. I feel like the process has a calming effect and I wanted to bring that into a home with a sensitive object that I can create. The Night Light has three modes of brightness depending on the amount of light that is sensed in the room corresponding with daytime, evening, and nighttime. The Night Light also responds to temperature; when it’s hot in the room, the trees stay green to display summer, when it gets a little colder, the red and orange lights on the trees turn on to symbolize autumn, and when it gets even colder, the red and orange lights turn off and the blue lights on the Christmas tree turn on to symbolize winter. The object is intended to be an ambient, serene Night Light that has calming effects and makes falling asleep more interesting. The tiny model is also the start of something bigger – it demonstrates how this technology can be used in a larger environment.

Discussion of Calm Technology Principles:

As I was developing the concept for my project, I constantly had the principles of calm design in mind. I truly wanted to create something that could exist seamlessly with the environment while enacting positive change like the “Warde” flower lamp project installed in Vallero Square. My focus for the purpose of this project was on the following four Calm Technology Principles:

  • Technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention:

The Changing Seasons Serenity Night Light requires a minimum amount of attention, with no need to physically interact with it. The Night Light is designed to exist as a part of the environment as to not take the user out of their current task. It simply provides light and comfort in the background.

  • Technology should inform and create calm:

With the cabin and backyard design, the project is meant to be calm and healing. By mimicking nature with the lights, the project is meant to help users become more in tune with nature while not needing to waste effort or time on it.

  • Technology should make use of the periphery:

The Night Light makes use of the periphery as it will interact with the environment by itself; responding to changes in light and temperature.

  • Technology can communicate but doesn’t need to speak:

The lights on the project can communicate brightness and temperature information through a simple series of lights. The communication method is the same as that observed in nature: when it gets cold, the leaves on trees turn red and orange and when it is winter, snow falls on trees and many Christmas trees’ lights turn on. The project’s lights mimic nature in this way to communicate information without the need to explain or provide instructions.

Experience Video:

How It Works Video:

Video transcript:

“The Changing Seasons Serenity Night Light is inspired by the city lights turning on one by one at night. Now, as I was working on the project, I noticed that the more lights I attached to the breadboard, the dimmer the LEDs became. The way I tackled this problem was that I split the project into two separate parts each using its own breadboard and code. This does mean that both sets of instructions cannot exist at the same time without having more equipment. For the purpose of this project, I will be showing how the two parts work separately, but the effect is intended to occur alongside one another, and I like to view both parts as part of a whole project.

The first part of my project is essentially a Night Light. Inside the cabin made of popsicle sticks is two sets of LED lights made up of 4 yellow lights and 4 white lights. By using the photoresistor, which is attached to the breadboard behind the house, the piece collects information regarding the brightness of the room and changes the brightness of the lights in the cabin accordingly. There are three different modes of brightness corresponding to daytime, evening, and nighttime.

The second part of my project uses the temperature and humidity sensor which is included on the Arduino Nano 33 BLE. Depending on the temperature in the room, different information will be sent to the LEDs that are attached to the trees beside the house. There are 6 blue lights and 7-8 orange/red lights. When it’s hot in the room, the trees stay green to display summer, when it gets a little colder, the red and orange lights on the trees turn on to symbolize autumn, and when it gets even colder, the red and orange lights turn off and the blue lights on the Christmas tree turn on to symbolize winter.”

Final project images:

image-2 image-3

The Development Process:

  1. I started by developing a simplified version (code and circuit) of my project:


2. Then, I created the little cabin which would house the LED lights using popsicle sticks:


3. Next, I created the backyard and trees using green fabric and foam:


4. Finally, I put together the complicated version of the circuit and attached the LEDs to the inside of the house and on the trees using wire.



Link to the Arduino code hosted on Github:—Sensitive-Objects

Circuit diagram:

Circuit 1: This circuit is for changing the light depending on the brightness.

circuit-1 circuit-1b

Circuit 2: This circuit is for turning on different sets of lights depending on the temperature.

circuit-2 circuit-2b

*Note: The Arduino I used is the Arduino Nano 33 BLE (not available on TinkerCAD)



Music from video is “Tomorrow” from

Team, The Arduino. “Reading Temperature & Humidity on Nano 33 BLE Sense: Arduino Documentation.” Arduino Documentation | Arduino Documentation,




The “Hopeful Day” Project

This past year, a lot has changed due to Covid-19. The “Hopeful Day” project was created with lockdowns and quarantine in mind. The series of small programs I created can help people de-stress and relieve boredom. Because we cannot attend a yoga class or visit a museum during a lockdown, I created interactive sketches which allow the user to do yoga with another (cartoon) human, as well as browse the paintings of an art exhibition. With the future being so uncertain, I created the “Hopeful Thinking” sketch which allows the user to hide their stress stemming from different times of the day. Finally, I created the “Hopeful Sky” sketch because of the saying “after every storm is a rainbow,” to refer to a better tomorrow and encourage everyone to stay hopeful.

Overall, I’m glad that the project was able to convey my central message. However, being very new to coding, I encountered a lot of different issues. Some being as small as forgetting a “)” and some that couldn’t be solved even after 100+ trial and error tests. For these, I had to be mindful of the deadline and substitute certain elements with an easier solution. Because of this, I couldn’t explore more ways to use poseNet and interact using more parts of the body. I was surprised to find that coding for different body parts/actions was very different. I discovered that there’s no “right” way to do things, and the best way to learn is by things trying out.

Sketch 1: “Hopeful Thinking” 


Present link:

Edit link:





This interaction titled: “Hopeful Thinking” is a sketch that allows users to hide their stress away no matter what time of the day the anxiety comes to attack you. Users can move the word “stress” around using their nose and the text will slowly fade to the colour corresponding to the background until it’s completely hidden. It utilizes the coordinates of the nose as a fun little way to move things around on the screen. This study demonstrates the use of interaction and machine learning in creating satisfaction and solving small problems.

Sketch 2: “Hopeful Dreams” 


Present link:

Edit Link:





This sketch, “Hopeful Dreams” allows users to visit an art exhibition and interact with the display through their computer. The interaction takes the audience through a series of peaceful paintings titled “Blue Dream” while playing music in the background. It is a new way of showcasing one’s works or portfolio. Other than help convey the overall message of my project, I conducted this project to study how to display artwork/portfolio in a more interesting manner. Perhaps we can utilize this interactive technology to make a better first impression when submitting portfolios or resumes.

Sketch 3: “Hopeful Spirit” 


Present link:

Edit link:





Part 3 of this series of sketches is called: “Hopeful Spirit” and allows the audience to de-stress by doing yoga alongside another being. When users bring their hands above their head and hold it, the figure in the sketch will also do the same. This allows the user to develop the sense of exercising with other people at a time when going to the gym or a class may be unsafe. Although this example is very simple right now, my intention is to expand this to other activities like walking in which the user can exercise alongside other “people” as well so that everyone can interactively exercise in their homes.

Sketch 4: “Hopeful Sky” 


Present link:

Edit link:





The last part of my study is a small interactive piece where the weather changes when the user brings their hands together. I wanted to conclude the study in a hopeful way to encourage everyone to look forward to the future. Because this piece was the first one I did (and my first ever coding experience), it has gone through 4 days of coding frustration, getting stuck on hundreds of error messages, and many transformations before it became a finished product. Although it is far from my original intentions, I’ve learned so much from testing out various theories and mapping out possible solutions.

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